Major study finds antidepressants are effective

The study suggests that millions more of us should be taking antidepressants

Some are more effective than others, but all were more effective than a placebo, and even a placebo was better than nothing.

They then compared them with placebo, or with other antidepressants (head-to-head trials) for the acute treatment (over 8 weeks) of major depression in adults aged 18 years or more.

For instance, in 2008, Irving Kirsch, associate director of the Program in Placebo Studies at Harvard Medical School published a meta-analysis showing antidepressants are no more effective than a placebo - but only when you also include unpublished trials.

"There is a long-lasting debate and concern about [antidepressants'] efficacy and effectiveness, because short-term benefits are, on average, modest; and because long-term balance of benefits and harms is often understudied", Andrea Cipriani, MD, PhD, of the department of psychiatry, University of Oxford, and Oxford Health NHS Foundation Trust, and colleagues wrote in The Lancet.

"Our study brings together the best available evidence to inform and guide doctors and patients in their treatment decisions". We found that the most commonly used antidepressants are more effective than placebo, with some more effective than others. "Our findings are relevant for adults experiencing a first or second episode of depression - the typical population seen in general practice". While both pharmacological and psychological treatments are available, only one in six people, with depression in rich countries, gets effective treatment.

John Geddes, professor of epidemiological psychiatry at Oxford University, who worked on the study, told The Guardian: 'It is likely that at least one million more people per year should have access to effective treatment for depression, either drugs or psychotherapy.

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A landmark study has found that antidepressants are effective and more people should take them. Something that may work for one person may have a completely different reaction for someone else.

However, she said: "This does not necessarily mean that antidepressants should always be the first line of treatment".

"Taking antidepressants is frequently portrayed as a negative thing or something done only when other therapies are not available or have failed", said Helen Stokes-Lampard, chairwoman of the Royal College of Global Positioning System.

"Anti-depressants are routinely used worldwide yet there remains considerable debate about their effectiveness and tolerability", he said in a statement.

Also, the differences in efficacy and acceptability between different antidepressants are smaller when data from placebo-controlled trials are also considered.

"The large amount of data allowed more conclusive inferences and gave the opportunity also to explore potential biases". Around 60% of people respond by about two months to the drugs with about a 50% reduction in their symptoms - an improvement in mood, better sleep and so on. Notably, the most famous antidepressant of them all, Prozac (currently out of patent and commonly known by its generic name, fluoxetine), was one of the least effective options, though it was best tolerated (fewest side effects).

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